A Double-Penalty for Hamilton! F1 2020 Season Review: Russia
Valtteri Bottas took his second win of the Formula One season today, let's take a look at how it happened...
Can you believe we are already ten rounds into the 2020 Formula One season? I certainly can't. This weekend, we arrived at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia for the first and only Russian Grand Prix of the year, and there was drama throughout the entire weekend! Let's take a detailed look at what happened during qualifying and the race...
Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix started out with the usual cars not making it through Q1, the first session of the weekend. George Russell did a fantastic job to get his newly-owned Williams through to Q2, while his teammate wasn't so lucky. The drivers eliminated in Q1 were - Romain Grosjean, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Nicolas Latifi and Kimi Raikkonen.
The second qualifying session was possibly the most dramatic moment of the weekend, with the main talking point being Lewis Hamilton barely making his way into the final session - not something you would expect me to say about a Mercedes!
Lewis Hamilton made a mistake at the final corner of his first lap at Q2, sending him over the second white line and invalidating his lap. The number 44 driver would start another lap, only to be interrupted by a red flag caused by Sebastian Vettel. The German made a mistake at Turn 4 by putting his rear-right wheel on to one of the kerbs on the inside, sending his Ferrari spinning into the wall. The destroyed Ferrari would send debris flying all over track, which teammate Charles Leclerc would run over during his flying lap.
Lewis Hamilton was in the final sector at the time the red flag was called, and there were only two minutes to set a time that would move him up from fourteenth place. The rules in Formula One state that a driver that is on a flying lap when the chequered flag is waved can continue their lap; but a driver cannot start a lap after the flag is waved. The Briton made it past the start/finish line with less than two seconds to go, starting his flying lap and securing his place in the third qualifying session. Talk about a close call!
The drivers that were eliminated in Q3 were - Charles Leclerc, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, George Russell and the crashed out Sebastian Vettel (who helped the marshals recover the debris from his car after crashing).
Q3 was a lot less tense than the session before it, with Lewis Hamilton making sure he doesn't repeat the same mistake he had made just 15 minutes before. While Valtteri Bottas looked to be competitive to take pole position, Hamilton put together a fantastic lap to put him in first place for the race. Max Verstappen surprised us and jumped Bottas to prevent a Mercedes front row, but was still over half a second behind the six-time world champion. Bottas took his place on the second row in third place - though this isn't a bad place to be as he can benefit from Hamilton's slipstream. Sergio Perez would start behind the Finn in fourth, and ahead of Ricciardo and Sainz in fifth and sixth. Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris would start in 7th and 8th to alternate the Renaults and McLarens, with Gasly and Albon rounding out the Top 10.
Now that we are all caught up with Qualifying, let's talk about the race!
There would be even more drama for Lewis Hamilton before the race had even started when we were informed that he was under investigation from the stewards for completing two illegal practice starts on the way to the grid.
Hamilton stopped at the end of the pitlane to complete a practice start, and then pulled over on the main straight to try another one as the start of the race is crucial on Russia's long pit straight. Radio footage shows that Hamilton had asked his engineers if the locations of his practice starts were okay, to which he was given permission. This investigation would eventually cost Lewis Hamilton the race...
As the five red lights went out, Lewis Hamilton got a decent getaway to compared to Max Verstappen, who was on the dirty side of the grid. Valtteri Bottas tucked into the slipstream of his teammate to draw alongside Verstappen as the pack reached the small bend in the straight that is labelled 'Turn 1'. The rest of the pack were running three and four wide as they approached the first heavy-braking zone that is Turn 2.
Bottas drew alongside Hamilton and attempted to out-brake his teammate and go around the outside, but he went a touch wide and couldn't make the move. Daniel Ricciardo also drew alongside Verstappen, which caused the Red Bull to completely misjudge the brakes and take to the escape road. Verstappen took the correct precautions to go through the arrowed signs and re-join the track safely, and alongside Ricciardo once more.
Carlos Sainz also made a mistake going into Turn 2 and was forced to take the escape road; however, he misjudged the turn and clipped the inside barrier and was sent into the middle of the track and out of the race. Lando Norris ran over his debris and dropped to the back as it messed with his steering, but was able to fix the issue with a pitstop. The pack continued around the long right-hander that is Turn 3, and the camera cut to look at Turn 4, where Lance Stroll spun and hit the wall in a very similar way to Sergio Perez at Germany last year. Stroll was tagged by Charles Leclerc and was forced out of the race, but there would be no penalties for the Monégasque. The safety car was deployed to remove the two retired cars, with Norris complaining about his damage in the process.
The safety car returned to the pits and Hamilton pulled away early, catching out Valtteri Bottas and giving him the upper hand on the main straight. Lap 7 would see Lewis Hamilton receive two 5-second penalties for his illegal practice starts before the race, which would be taken at his first pitstop and result in him lose the lead of the race. As you would expect, Hamilton wasn't very happy with this decision, but continued setting purple laps to try and reduce the numbers of positions that he would lose.
Meanwhile, Lando Norris made his way past Alex Albon at the back of the pack, while Daniil Kvyat passed Grosjean and Raikkonen passed Latifi. Kimi Raikkonen now has a total of 322 race starts, which equals the record for most starts that is held by Rubens Barrichello.
Lap 11 would see an exciting battle between the McLaren of Norris, the Red Bull of Albon and the Williams of George Russell. The trio have been friends for years, and it was nice to see them recreate the battles we had seen them making back in Formula 2. Lando Norris had made his way past George Russel at the back straight on the previous lap, but the Williams driver tucked into the slipstream of the McLaren, soaring past and leaving the Red Bull and McLaren battling behind him - it was a fantastic battle! The battle would soon come to an end on Lap 12 when Norris passes Russell on the pit straight. Russell would lock his front brakes at the end of the back straight (Turn 13), allowing Albon to slip through.
Sergio Perez would perform a brilliant move on the master of overtaking, Daniel Ricciardo, at Turn 3 by diving his pink Racing Point down the inside of the Renault. Lewis Hamilton would come on the radio from the lead of the race on Lap 14, after Mercedes prepared some new tyres, and said 'Do not stop me early' as he continued to set purple lap times.
Daniel Ricciardo would be the first driver to stop in the pit window on Lap 15 and switching his Soft tyres for a set of Hard tyres. Alex Albon would make his way past the other Williams of Nicolas Latifi, while Lewis Hamilton came into make his pitstop and serve his penalty. The Briton would emerge from the pits in P11 and on the Hard tyre, meaning he had a lot of work to do if he wanted to limit how much Bottas closes his championship lead. He soon starts to make his way through the field though, breezing his way past Sebastian Vettel on the pit straight as other drivers start to pit.
Verstappen comes into the pits on Lap 26 to switch his Medium tyres - which he had reported were 'dying' on to the Hard tyres. The strategy of starting on the Medium tyres didn't go to plan, as Red Bull ended up pitting before race leader, Valtteri Bottas, who had started on the Medium tyre. Valtteri Bottas would respond to this by putting for a set of Hard tyres a lap later, preventing Verstappen from performing an undercut.
Lap 27 would see Esteban Ocon move aside for Daniel Ricciardo at the end of the main straight, which wasn't the best place - when looking back - to let your teammate go through. Ricciardo locked his brakes and went wide into Turn 1, and only marginally left the track to the point where it wasn't worth trying to take the escape road. The incident would put the Australian under investigation from the stewards.
Ricciardo would receive a 5-second penalty a few laps later for the incident - which was questionable as he had already committed to the turn as he locked up - and was informed by his engineer several laps later. The Renault driver would maintain his composure and say 'I'll drive faster then. Sorry guys, that was my bad.'
Alex Albon was storming through the field in the latter parts of the race after starting in tenth place and dropping to the back of the pack early in the race. The Thai driver made his way past Grosjean and started putting pressure on Lando Norris on Lap 46 of 53, but lost a lot of momentum when taking a look down the inside of the double right-hander in the middle sector. Pierre Gasly didn't need a second invitation to draw alongside Alex and pass him in the DRS zone; it was back to the drawing board for the Red Bull driver.
There was a rather silly incident between Vettel and Grosjean going into Turn One on Lap 45, where the German attempted to dive down the inside of the Haas. The two bumped wheel and sent Grosjean over the sausage kerb; but the Frenchman was afraid of receiving a penalty and tried to take the escape road. Grosjean ended up hitting the polystyrene arrows on the track and prompting a Virtual Safety Car; but both drivers were able to continue without penalties after what was an amusing little battle.
Towards the end of the race, Lando Norris was struggling on his worn tyres and was passed by Daniil Kvyat. Alex Albon was rapidly catching the McLaren again to chase after the last point, but locks up into Turn 13 (the same place as Russell) and lets Albon through. The 20-year old would pit at the endo of the lap to run the last five laps on new tyres as he had dropped out of the points anyway. It was a disappointing race for McLaren, with a DNF for Sainz and a fifteenth place for Norris.
Russell also pits for a fresh set of Soft tyres on the penultimate lap to try and take an unlikely fastest lap, but doesn't end up doing so. Bottas would cross the line on Lap 53 to win the Russian Grand Prix and to close on Lewis Hamilton's championship lead!
Valtteri Bottas was able to put his car in the right place at the right time to take a well deserved victory at a track he has always been strong at, and prevent his teammate from equalling Michael Schumacher's all-time win record of 91 wins. Overall, I would rate the Russian Grand Prix a 5 out of 10 in terms of action; but another penalty for Lewis Hamilton really did make the race more interesting.
For me, Hamilton and Ricciardo were equally my drivers of the day, as they overcame their penalties to score good points for themselves and the team, with Hamilton finishing third and Ricciardo finishing fifth. You can find the full results down below!
Thank you for reading this week's review of the Russian Grand Prix! If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more from me, click here to see my profile.